Malicious Relays And The Health Of The Tor Network

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Running relays is a significant contribution to our project and we’ve designed
that process so that the barrier of entry is low, making it possible for a variety of people with different backgrounds to participate. This openness is important as it makes our network (and the privacy guarantees it offers) more robust and resilient to attacks. However, that low threshold of contributing to our network also makes it easier for malicious operators to attack our users, e.g. via Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks at exit nodes.

This blog post explains what we’re doing to detect malicious actors (and remove their relays), how we developed these strategies, and what we’re working on to make it harder for bad operators to run attacks. Additionally, we want to shine some light on this part of our day-to-day work at Tor. Because this is an arms race, we have to balance being transparent with effective detection of malicious actors. In this post we hope to offer more transparency about our approach without compromising the methods we use to keep our users safe.

What does bad-relay work look like?

Whether a relay is “bad” or “malicious” is often not as clear-cut as it might sound at first. Maybe the relay in question is just misconfigured and is, e.g., missing family settings (for the family configuration option see section 5 in our post-install instructions). Does that mean the operator has nefarious intentions? To help us react to those situations, we have developed a set of criteria

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